Break out the champs: Heather Dubrow is back on The Real Housewives of Orange County. The mother of four and wife of Botched’s Dr. Terry Dubrow was last seen on the OG Bravo reality series five years ago. Luckily, Housewives mastermind Andy Cohen left the door open for a return, and now the actress turned popular podcast host reenters the mix for Season 16 alongside alums Shannon Storms Beador, Gina Kirschenheiter, and Emily Simpson and newcomers Dr. Jen Armstrong and Noella Bergener.
We chatted with Dubrow about digging her heels into the Housewives franchise once again.
Was there a breaking point during your last stint that cemented the decision to move on?
I think that the show was changing directions, and it wasn’t a direction I wanted to be going in. I really just pulled myself away, didn’t film as much. I just wasn’t into it. It was time.
What made you want to come back? What changed?
When my daughter [Max] came out as bisexual, we were really flooded with amazing comments and a lot of love and support. It opened up a great conversation. When they first asked me to come back to the show, I laughed, honestly. Then I thought, “I have four kids. They are all different genders, different sexualities, different stages of life, and trying to figure out their places in the world. We’re figuring out how we parent, how we’re getting through it together.” I then thought it would be cool to open up conversations for other families and maybe show our version of a normal functioning family and maybe help some people.
You don’t see it enough—parents on TV who love their kids unconditionally, allowing them a safe place to live their truth. What can you tell us about what we’re going to see from Max this season?
She wrote a book I’ll Give It to You Straightish. I’m very proud of her. You’ll see part of that process. Max has been very honest and open and vocal. We have a book launch on the show. And you’ll also get to know our other children and what is going on in their lives. I have to say that even with all the drama—not everything is perfect, there are definitely cons to doing a show like this—but even with all of that. There are a few scenes involving me and Terry and me and a couple of the kids that are so special and important, I would do it over the same exact way.
Did you prepare the kids before filming began?
They don’t really remember Housewives when they were younger because they were babies. This was more of a bigger conversation. Once I decided this would be a good idea, I needed them to think it was a good idea, or it wasn’t possible. They are a huge part of my life. In the end, everyone gave the thumbs up. It was interesting during our very first day of filming. We have dinner. We didn’t talk about it in advance. I didn’t prep them. The cameras are being packed up, and we look at each other saying, “Huh. That was so weirdly normal.” I was happy about that.
What did you take from the last experience that affected how you approached this season?
I’m a control freak. But when you feel you’re smarter than a show like this, or you have things figured out, you’ve completely lost. I got to a good spot where I went, “I don’t care. I’m coming back to the show because I want to show my family. I think it’s cool and that we might be able to help people. It’s a great platform. It’s a good thing.” I was much more relaxed about the whole thing. I didn’t worry about what anyone else was filming or doing.
How do you compare the dynamic of the group from your past time?
There is definitely fresher energy. I don’t mean that in a negative way [compared] to when I was on before. When I joined the cast, they had all been on for several years. Everything feels very new and fresh. [Season 16] definitely has a different vibe in a very good way.
In the years since you’ve been on Housewives, social media has become even more prevalent. How do you feel that will play into things as the season unfolds?
It is weird how social media has become another character on the show. It adds another dimension. What I hope to get from it is what I’ve gotten with my podcast, which is to create a community. Keep conversations going, learn from each other, laugh a little, cry a little bit. There is all of that this season.
It’s so easy to go in with preconceived notions of these ladies based on what is out there. You appear to have bonded with Gina from jump, but was there anyone who surprised you?
The first time I joined the show, I didn’t watch it. I just thought, “I’m going to meet these women for the first time. Why would I know anything about them?” I’m glad I did that because maybe there were people I wouldn’t have become friends with. In life, someone doesn’t hand you a dossier of who they are. I felt the same way going back in this time. The only one I knew was Shannon. I didn’t get to know everyone right off the bat because there is so much drama in the first party they kind of separated everyone for a while. This way we can all recover from it. I immediately liked Gina. We had that New York transplant energy right from the start—although I did see a lot of things online saying we wouldn’t be friends.
Girls’ trips have always been a big part of any Housewives. In the world of COVID, what was travel like this time around?
We traveled privately a lot. We kept everything super safe. I was so glad about that because my favorite thing about the show is the girls’ trips. It’s something I don’t actually do in my non-show life. We travel a lot this season. They are really fun trips. It’s a lot.
There is a lot going on in the teaser. Things look to be getting heated in Cabo. What else can you tell us?
The fans were asking for a reboot. I think the audience is going to be incredibly happy. There is all of the drama. There are some incredibly compelling personal stories. The ending is surprising. I’ve never ended a season like this before. You really don’t know where it goes from there. But it really has all the elements for a very successful season. Just when you think you might know someone, maybe you don’t.
The Real Housewives of Orange County, Season 16 Premiere, Wednesday, December 1, 9/8c, Bravo